5. Q&A: Self Management 

Authority tends to make its possessor unjust and
arbitrary; it also makes those subject to it
acquiesce in wrong, subservient, and servile.
Authority corrupts its holder and debases its victim.
-Mikhail Bakunin 

I can’t see any reason why this would be so. First, no one has significantly greater resources than anyone else, so a free press in a parecon is not hobbled by being owned by and servicing a few. Second, a parecon values diversity. This has considerable bearing. It means that dissent is valued in its own right, even in lieu of evidence of its validity, for the proper reason that progress often depends on it. A society with a participatory economy would, therefore, I should think, set aside space and resources to actively support dissent. 

Parecon does not work like this. The whole community doesn’t pass judgment on each workplace in such a manner. Rather, a group of people can decide to create a workplace, like a magazine or whatever, and begin to operate within the economy. Your problem takes the form of whether the output of the effort has sufficient value to warrant inputs into it. But that isn’t just a big vote by everyone...it depends on the folks who want the output. And to prevent undesirable outcomes, society could collectively decide—I believe it would do so, in fact—that minority and dissident viewpoints deserve greatly disproportionate support, beyond what economic accounting might spontaneously arrive at, on the off chance, for example, that they are valid, and will grow in relevance and impact. 


There is a sense of this, yes. Suppose a few folks decide to create a magazine in a parecon. And suppose very few folks want it—too few, using the typical planning procedures to decide the issue—to warrant the planning system providing us all the inputs we need. What is the option, then? 

So while these are real problems in any society, it is hard for me to see how parecon isn’t vastly superior on these axes than any other economic model we know about. 

For the same reason we would opt against majority rule all the time, or against each person does whatever they will, anytime—because consensus conveys a particular apportionment of influence that is consistent with the guiding norms in some cases, but not in others. 


But I should clarify something. When folks talk about consensus they often conflate two parts—first, communicating clearly and fully, providing room for those affected to express themselves, etc. The process part. Second, each person having a veto over any proposed plan or decision. The decision input part. 

The first aspect, the process part, is almost always appropriate and can be appended to any voting arrangement, though this is unlikely in an elitist context. The second aspect, the decision input rights, is the part that sometimes makes sense, but often not, and which a parecon would therefore employ sometimes, but not many other times. 

No, there is no reason to think that humans, even in the best society we can imagine, will always see eye to eye about everything. Instead, we can predict with perfect confidence that there will be countless situations in which involved, affected parties have conflicting opinions—both values and assessments—that lead them to favor different options. To have strong dissent is not a sign of failure, not at all, and is often essential to vitality and progress, in fact. Now one can ask, what do you do with on-going dissent—and, for example, one very good thing to do, when possible, is to provide a means for its expression in on-going experimentation and exploration so that, among other things, if the “winning” approach proves undesirable, the dissenting one is still on the table for implementation. This is the logic of diversity applied to decisions.